Where to find fall colors in Calgary, Banff, and Kananaskis.
If you’re looking for a beautiful fall walk or hike near Calgary, you don’t need to go very far. While larches steal the show (in the mountains) with their golden needles, there are some stunning fall walks and hikes right here in town. From Bowness Park to Saddleback Pass, here’s where to find fall colors in Calgary, Banff, and Kananaskis.
Fall Walks in Calgary
In Calgary, there are many parks with great fall walks:
- Baker Park is a beautiful park along the Bow River with a gazebo, disc golf course, and paved bike path.
- Bowmont Park’s Waterfall Valley Trail has a boardwalk through a grove of aspens, Bow River viewpoint, and opportunities to go further through the park to the Twin Bridges.
- Bowness Park has a paved bike path, two playgrounds, picnic areas with fire pits, and multi-colored foliage along the river.
- Confederation Park boasts towering balsam poplars and a few larch trees (a treat as larches are usually only seen at high elevations) make for great photos. It is a popular wedding photo spot. There’s a nice nature playground on the east side of 10th Street NW.
- Edworthy Park has fall color along the river, but the most fall colors may be found on the Douglas Fir Trail. Park on the north side of the park and get a coffee or ice cream at Angel’s Cafe! The park also has several picnic areas with fire pits and playgrounds.
- Fish Creek Park is a wonderful nature escape in the city, featuring balsam poplars by the river, picnic areas, and walking and biking trails. Park at Bow Valley Ranch and visit the Artisan Gardens!
- North Glenmore / Weaselhead is pretty year round, but we love visiting in the fall when the deciduous trees and shrubs around the Glenmore Reservoir change color. Picnic or barbecue after your walk at one of the many picnic areas.
- Prince’s Island Park is a colorful oasis in the city due to the variety of plants. You can get nature shots on the interpretive trail, or photos with bridges or skyscrapers in the background.
Fall Hikes Near Calgary
- Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park is one of the best places to see autumn leaves near Calgary. Located in the foothills, just a few kilometres east of Cochrane, this pretty park boasts 25 km of hiking and cycling trails, rolling hills, and mountain views. There are gorgeous groves of aspens, and towering cottonwoods by the Bow River.
- Big Hill Springs Provincial Park, a small park near Cochrane, is a fun place to walk and splash in the creek.
- Brown-Lowery Provincial Park, is another great place for a fall hike just south of Calgary.
Fall Hikes in Kananaskis
- Tryst Lake sees far less traffic than the trails near Highwood Pass. Hike to a small pond surrounded by larches. If you’re feeling adventurous, go up the ridge at left. This is an unofficial trail, so you should read the route description carefully before you go.
- Ptarmigan Cirque allows you to get into the alpine quickly since you start at Highwood Pass, the highest paved pass in Canada. This 4.5 km hike is stunning in any season, but wildflower and larch seasons allow it to truly shine.
- Chester Lake is a popular trail year round with larches near the lake. For the best view, hike to the top of the ridge on the far side of the lake.
- Pocaterra Cirque (and Pocaterra Ridge) departs from the Highwood Pass parking lot and takes you to a valley full of larches. If you’re feeling energetic, continue up to the top of Pocaterra Ridge or do the whole traverse. This hike has become quite popular, so an early start is recommended.
For more options, see our story: Fantastic Fall Larch Hikes in Kananaskis.
Fall Hikes in Banff National Park
- Lake Agnes Teahouse is located 3.4 kilometres from Chateau Lake Louise. Enjoy hot chocolate at the teahouse, then get photos with larches beside the mirror-like lake.
- Saddleback Pass (en route to Mount Fairview) is a strenuous hike with a lot of elevation gain, but you get a lot in return: glacier and mountain views, and a pass full of larches.
- Mount St. Piran is an easy scramble that overlooks Lake Louise and has some larches along the way too!
- Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola: Ride the gondola for 14 minutes, enjoy the view from 2088 m (6850 ft), enjoy some gourmet dining, visit the Wildlife Interpretive Centre (free with gondola ticket) and do a short or long hike on top of the world! Try the Kicking Horse Viewpoint Trail (1.7 km return) to see larches and amazing vistas. If you’d like to hike further, do Pika Trail (2.5 km round trip) or Ptarmigan Valley Viewpoint (3.4 km round trip)! Please note that all the trails are beyond the electric fence, so you need to hike in a group of 4, carry bear spray, and make lots of noise.
- Larch Valley (8.6 km round trip, 535 m elevation gain) is the most famous larch hike from Moraine Lake but there are several others to choose from. The crux is getting to the lake now that Moraine Lake Road is closed to private vehicles. See our Getting to Moraine Lake guide for parking and shuttle bus info.
- Healy Pass is a long hike (19 km return) but worth it for the sweeping views and golden larches!
- Lake O’Hara: one of the most beautiful spots in the Rockies, but access is limited. Reserve your spot on the bus ($17.14 per person as of 2023) in advance to ensure you get to hike there. The great thing about Lake O’Hara is that you get a lot of bang for your buck/effort. There are several hikes less than 8 km round trip that are nontechnical and appropriate for (fit) children aged 5 and up. My favorite is the Alpine Circuit, but since that’s too long for the kids, we did Lake Oesa and Opabin Prospect instead.
- If you’re feeling rich, helicopter in to Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park for some stunning scenery. Mt. Assiniboine is also known as the Matterhorn of the Rockies. Once there, you can walk down to Lake Magog to gaze upon Mount Assiniboine from the Nublet, or carry on to the summit of Nub Peak.
Know Before You Go
- Kananaskis: A Kananaskis Conservation Pass is required to park in Kananaskis. Purchase your pass online from the Government of Alberta.
- Banff: A Parks Canada Discovery Pass / daily admission fee is required to stop in Banff National Park. Parking is limited in downtown Banff and at the Banff Gondola, and Parks Canada Shuttles are recommended for visiting Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. See our Getting Around Banff Guide for info re: free parking, public transit, and shuttles.
- You are in bear territory. Review our Bear Safety Tips and keep bear spray accessible.
- Dogs must be kept on a leash.
What to Bring
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Good hiking boots, a down hoody or fleece, toque, gloves, and windproof/waterproof shell are recommended year round. Trekking poles are useful for long hikes, steep descents, or when you’re carrying a heavy pack. You should also carry The Ten Essentials including: water, extra food, extra clothes, a first aid kit, headlamp, GPS / compass, and map of the area, sunscreen (this mineral sunscreen is fragrance free, paraben free, and reef-friendly), bug spray (this Deet-free one contains 20% icaridin and will repel ticks), and bear spray. Carry bear spray in a Bear Spray Holster or Scat Griz Bear Spray Running Belt.
A Garmin inReach Mini 2 satellite communicator is highly recommended for contacting Search & Rescue and emergency contacts in the event of an emergency, or communicating with friends and family when you are out of cell phone range. You can send text messages and your GPS coordinates via satellite (but a monthly plan is required)!
In snowy/icy conditions, traction devices such as Kahtoola Microspikes (Available from Amazon, MEC, and Valhalla Pure Outfitters), or Hillsound Trail Crampons (Available at Valhalla Pure Outfitters and Sport Chek) are recommended. See our Fall Hiking Gear Guide for recommended clothing and gear.